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World begins muted 2021 celebrations as 2020 comes to an end
December 31, 2020
The Pacific Island of Tonga has become the first country to mark the start of 2021, with millions around the world celebrating the New Year at home because of COVID-19.
Many New Year celebrations have been disrupted by the pandemic as officials seek to limit crowds that can spread COVID-19.
France has mobilised 100,000 police and gendarmes to break up New Year’s Eve parties and enforce a curfew from 8pm.
Australian officials have banned people from gathering near Sydney Harbour Bridge to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks display.
The celebrated annual event, which normally attracts around one million people to the city’s harbourside, can only be watched live by those who live in the area and their guests.
New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian said those who live in the city centre can invite up to 10 friends and family to their homes to celebrate. Guests will have to apply for permits to enter the area.
Half of the metro lines in Paris will also be closed in the evening to discourage gatherings.
Composer and performer Jean-Michel Jarre’s avatar will play a set from inside a virtual Notre Dame Cathedral while he himself performs it live at a nearby studio in the city.
One of the most iconic New Year’s Eve events is the Times Square Ball Drop in New York.
The ball will still be dropping this year, but the party, which usually sees hundreds of thousands cramming the famous LED-lit intersection, will be for an “extremely limited” group of socially distanced in-person “honourees”.
Everyone else will need to tune in virtually or watch on TV.
There will be a performance from singer Gloria Gaynor, who will see the year off with a rendition of I Will Survive.
In Tokyo, not only have all-night trains been cancelled on New Year’s Eve, but several of the city’s big countdown parties, concerts and other seasonal gatherings have been called off as well, including the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing party.
Officials in Hong Kong have cancelled the pyrotechnics over Victoria Harbour, as well as the annual iconic Lunar New Year parade in February.
This makes 2021 the second year in a row the city will miss out on the usually lavish annual celebrations.
Last year’s countdown fireworks and the 2020 Lunar New Year parade were both held in much diminished form due to the threat of anti-government protests.